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Art student found slain in Cobbs Creek

Police say Kierra Johnson, 21, had been strangled.

File photo.
File photo.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / File Photograph

Police are investigating the slaying of a 21-year-old art student whose body was found in Cobbs Creek in West Philadelphia on Friday.

The victim, identified on Monday as Kierra Johnson, had been strangled, police said.

She was last seen Thursday. Police, responding to a call for a "person in the water" found her body in the area of Spruce Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway around 11 a.m. Friday.

Johnson, of the 7700 block of Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia, was a student at the Hussian College — School of Art in the city's Spring Garden section.

Police said they have not established a motive or identified any possible suspects.

Capt. John Ryan, commander of the homicide unit, said it did not appear that Johnson's body had been in the water long.

In 2015, Johnson took part in a National Parks Service internship program in Massachusetts and wrote about the importance of art in her life and a newfound appreciation of conservation in an online posting.

"Being an artist and growing up in [a] lower class home with a single parent I have learned to use the resources I have to create bigger and better things and so I do not feel the need to separate my passion for art and my passion for conservation," she wrote. "Rather, I wish to integrate the two things if there is any way possible as I feel it is a necessity to preserve the arts, history and nature for future generations to come because all three of these things have played a huge roll in forming the person I am today and have done the same for many others."

In a statement, Hussian said Johnson, who was known as "Ki" to her friends, was a member of the Class of 2019, an honors student and an excellent artist.

"Talented, gentle, kind and always smiling, Ki was not only a visual artist, but a performance artist as well," the statement said. "She will be deeply missed by all and it is a particularly difficult time for us as we are a small, close-knit community."

At Johnson's home Monday afternoon in the Korman Suites apartments on Lindbergh Boulevard, two men stood watch by the front door. They didn't offer much about their relationship to Johnson or her mother, but told reporters they would need to wait until the mother got home for information.

Next door, Brendan Jones, 23, said he heard about his neighbor's death from his roommate. "I didn't know them personally, I may have said hi or bye just coming in and out," Jones said.  "I do feel for the family … crazy world."

A groundskeeper at the complex, Robert Williams, 39, said he was friendly with Johnson, and last saw her on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.

Williams said he could not help but think of his own two children. He and Johnson's mother had discussed her college plans before, he said.

"I see her walk past all the time," Williams said. "She's nice — nice and friendly. Nice young lady."

Staff writer Emerson Max contributed to this article.